Mumbai: Kurla Residents Rally To Oppose Government Plan To Repurpose Dairy Land For Dharavi Redevelopment

Mumbai: Kurla Residents Rally To Oppose Government Plan To Repurpose Dairy Land For Dharavi Redevelopment

Residents of Kurla are uniting against the Maharashtra government's plan to repurpose the Nehru Nagar dairy land for the Dharavi redevelopment project, sparking a contentious debate over land use and conservation efforts.

RUCHA KANOLKARUpdated: Sunday, June 16, 2024, 11:16 PM IST
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Mumbai: Kurla Residents Rally To Oppose Government Plan To Repurpose Dairy Land For Dharavi Redevelopment |

Mumbai: Residents of Kurla are uniting against the Maharashtra government's plan to repurpose the Nehru Nagar dairy land for the Dharavi redevelopment project, sparking a contentious debate over land use and conservation efforts. The proposal, authorized through a Government Resolution (GR) on June 10, aims to allocate the 8.5-hectare plot for housing Dharavi slum dwellers, a move vehemently opposed by local residents.

Organizing under the banner of 'Lok Chalwal,' residents argue for preserving the green space of the old Kurla dairy land as a public park and recreational area. "We oppose any development plans for this plot. Our demand is simple—a public park amidst the 800 to 900 trees already flourishing here, with some sporting facilities," stated a spokesperson from Lok Chalwal.

The sentiment is echoed by Prasad Viswanathan of Jaago Nehru Nagar Residents Welfare Association, who emphasized the community's long-standing effort to safeguard the area's greenery. "We've fought tirelessly to protect this land from commercialization. Converting it into a concrete jungle would be a grave disservice," he asserted.

Describing the conflict surrounding the plot, another local resident said, "The Mother Dairy, which started its operations in 1974, enjoyed a prolonged period of efficiency. Nevertheless, roughly 15-20 years ago, it ceased to operate. Since then, the land has remained vacant. Kurla's already overcrowded conditions would worsen if a miniature Business District were to be established here."

Reacting to this development, newly-elected Member of Parliament from the Indian National Congress, Varsha Gaikwad, said, "The BJP government's ultimate goal is to devour the entire city of Mumbai, and they will stop at nothing to achieve it. This so-called 'Dharavi rehabilitation' is a thinly veiled ploy to justify their nefarious plans. Let me make one thing clear, we will not permit this egregious attempt to appropriate public space. The corrupt government is hell-bent on exploiting every inch of greenery in Mumbai for personal gain. They now seek to commercially exploit a 10.4-hectare haven of tranquility, previously occupied by Mother Dairy at Nehru Nagar in Kurla East. This land is a precious eco-sensitive zone, teeming with over 800-900 precious trees. The government's plan is to ruthlessly decimate these trees and transform this verdant oasis into a commercial complex solely to cater to the interests of a firm linked to a high-ranking BJP leader. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has already appointed the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) as the Special Planning Authority (SPA) to facilitate the monetization of this eco-sensitive belt. However, the vigilant citizens of Nehru Nagar are resolute in their determination to thwart this corrupt endeavour. They have launched a spirited mass movement called Lok Chalwal to fight against this brazen land grab."

A portion of the dairy's land was already acquired for the Metro Line 2B, with construction now underway. However, the true extent of the government's intentions was revealed in December 2023 when Chief Minister Eknath Shinde appointed the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) as the Special Planning Authority (SPA) to transform the 10.4-hectare plot, previously occupied by the government milk dairy at Nehru Nagar, Kurla, into a mini BKC.

This strategically located land has been lying vacant since the dairy ceased operations nearly a decade ago. Situated along the Santacruz-Chembur Link Road, LTT Kurla Terminus, Mumbai Metro Yellow Line 2B, and the Harbour Line of the suburban railway network, its potential uses are vast.

Local citizens group had written to Shiv Sena MLA Mangesh Kudalkar in March, expressing opposition to the proposal. The letter highlighted the pressing need for open spaces in the area, particularly given the rapid population growth and resulting vehicular and traffic congestion.

The group emphasized that within the next four to five years, with numerous building redevelopments planned in the area, the metro station near the dairy will be overwhelmed by the influx of people, traffic, and livestock congestion.

Highlighting the scarcity of sports facilities in Nehru Nagar, it was emphasized that only two sports grounds exist in the entire area. Consequently, there was a strong demand for the plot to be designated as a public park instead. Their signature campaign successfully gathered 10,000 signatures and garnered support from various citizen groups. However, despite these efforts, the plan has not been officially abandoned.

Following a protest meeting organized by the MLA on Thursday, some residents convened to preliminarily discuss their opposition strategy. A formal meeting is scheduled for Sunday, involving all active groups such as Kurla Nehru Nagar Rahivasi Sangh and Nehru Nagar Nagrik Sangh.

Shiv Sena MLA Mangesh Kudalkar has vehemently rejected the government's decision to allocate a Mother Dairy plot in Nehru Nagar, Kurla, for the rehabilitation of Dharavi slum dwellers. In a strongly worded letter to Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Kudalkar criticized the government resolution.

He said, "Residents have long demanded that the land be used for a sports complex. I am committed to supporting the residents in their protest and will work with them to devise a strategy to address this issue. I will not allow Dharavi residents to encroach on this land." In a meeting with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Kudalkar presented a memorandum outlining his concerns and received assurances that any further decisions will be made after consulting with concerned officials.

Kiran Pailwan, a resident of the area, emphasized the concerns surrounding the plot, saying, "The Mother Dairy, which began operations in 1974, was once a paragon of efficiency. However, after a couple of decades, it ceased to function. Since then, the land has lain vacant. If a mini BKC were to be established here, Kurla's already congested conditions would become even more unbearable. The area has undergone significant transformation, with four-story buildings being replaced by towering skyscrapers that have turned it into a concrete jungle. This dairyland serves as a vital green oasis for our community, providing a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle. We yearn for basic amenities such as parks and gardens that are currently lacking. We have been petitioning the government for almost a year, but have received no response. It is unconscionable that the land was allocated to businessmen within just four days, demonstrating a clear lack of transparency and fairness."

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